Friday, December 26, 2014


So you know your walking and ochos and how to cross and all this other complicated things you learned during the class and you eager to apply them in real world? We can only applaud as it's never too early to get out of your comfort zone to the bigger world out there.

Before you go - learn the basic of the code!

First and most important: It's OK to go to the Milonga to just watch! You learn a lot this way. You will see the dance in its 'natural environment', see how everything works, get to watch people dancing and hear a lot of great music.

Most of the time there is a class and short practica just before the Milonga starts. Make sure you make use of that part, even if your plan is just to observe for the rest of the evening.
The class is usually 60 - 90 minutes and what it gives you - you get to know who other beginners are. You might feel more comfortable to try first with them. Especially in right after the class practice time.

Things to know:
During Milonga music is played in tandas. One Tanda consist of 4-5 songs. In most cases you dance the whole tanda with one partner unless something goes wrong - for example you have no connection at all. If that happen it is polite to continue dancing until end of the song and then simply say 'thank you' and just walk back to your seat. The New York rule 'Don't ask - don't tell' applies. You do not need to explain your decision. Simple 'thank you' is perfectly fine. It's definitely worth remembering that 'thank you' now DOES NOT MEAN 'thank you forever'. Work on your dance skills and ask again in few weeks. The other good solution if you are not sure if you wish to dance with a person - is to wait until the last song of the tanda and ask then. This way, if you like it and wish to dance more, you can simply ask for the next tanda.

Each tanda is separated from the next one by cortina (curtain), which is usually non-danceable music, or non-tango music. It's your choice, but dancing to cortina music it's not highly prized.... So even if you hear your favorite salsa number try NOT to dance! Instead - use this time to walk your follower back to her/his seat, exchange pleasantries, and get ready for the next tanda.

As Tango consist of marvelous trio of Tango, Milonga and Vals - each type of music is played creating separate tandas.
Most often tandas are played in this order: T, T, M, T, T, V.
Meaning: Tanda of Tangos, Tanda of Tangos, Tanda of Milongas, Tanda of Tangos, Tanda of Tangos, Tanda of Valses.

This bring us to the next very important subject. Crucially important for beginning dancers! DO NOT ask for a dance UNTIL THE MUSIC STARTS TO PLAY! This way if it's a song you don't like or type of Tango you don't know how to dance - you can simply relax and watch other dancers instead of sweating on the floor trying to pretend that you know what you don't know.

Use cabaceo to ask for dance. It's simply polite to give a person a chance to refuse. Remember - Tango is a proposal, not a demonstration of power. Respect it.

One of the good reasons to watch before 'jumping into dancing' yourself is to recognize the dynamic between dancers. It's like joining new club. Before making any statements yourself you want to learn what's going on. Who is who, who dances how, who dances with whom and for how long. You wanna take few tandas and recognize the patterns.

If you see 2 poeple dancing tanda after tanda after tanda with each other - good chances are that they are together and are planning on dancing the whole night. In which case your attention shall go elsewhere. It's an important thing to know for ladies - if you are seeing dancing more than 2 tandas in the row with the same leader - chances of being asked to dance by other leader diminish greatly.

Other rules follow simple common sense: If the lady you wish to dance with is sitting with her partner - it is polite to ask him for permission to take a lady for a dance, even though you have her permission through cabazeo. After the tanda make sure you walk her back to her seat. After such a wonderful dance you just gifted her with she might be all confused and disoriented.

One more important thing: if there is orchestra playing life music - we DO NOT DANCE the first song. We focus on ADMIRING  and APPRECIATING the orchestra. DO NOT be the first person to jump on the floor. In fact wait until the orchestra leader himself starts encouraging people to start dancing. Simple respect.

Have fun!

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Can you hear the music? Can you hear the melody? Can you hear the singer’s voice? Can you hear the instruments? Is it obvious for you where ‘one’ is? Do you know what people talk about when they are using the expression ‘close the phrase’…

Argentine Tango is one of the most difficult dances because you are not dancing just agreed upon steps. Have you noticed that in Ballroom dancing choreographies, even in the open level, can be danced to any music. They always fit. Quite opposite in Tango. You can count to 8 all you want, but if you don’t fit into the phrase, your complicated sequence will not fit. Can you make it fit? Of course! But for that you need to hear the music.

There is an ongoing discussion about how to be a fantastic leader and personally I consider musicality one of The Most Crucial characteristic of Great Leader. I don’t mind a dance that consist only of walking with few pauses to respond to the music or to the dance line traffic. Millions of figures that have nothing to do with the song being played annoys me to death.

Same for followers. Use your adornments like you are using your make up. Are you putting all colors on your eyes at the same time? You do not. You stay within shades of one, two, max three colors. Use this philosophy in your dancing. Even if you mastered hundred and twelve adornos - use 2 or 3. Not all hundred and twelve. 

So now - lets try to hear. Can you hear Tango lyrics? Do you understand them? No? It’s ok. It’s nice to understand as they help to feel the mood of the song. Can you hear single words? Caffe, nada mas, calle, corason, duerme, sueno. You know what? Stop.
Unless you are practicing your Spanish stop focusing on this words. Try to hear the voice as instrument. Try to feel it softness, or harshness, sweetness, bitterness, anger, hope, love, dissapoitement. Hear it. You don’t need to know Spanish to know what the song is about. Just listen to the tone of voice, catch the accents, catch the cadence of it as it rises and falls.

Very often the voice goes against overall melody of Tango, so if you follow just words and its rhythmicity - guess what - you might be off music. 

Try to sing, whistle, hum. This is your melody. With your steps, before anything else, before any other experiments - try to illustrate melody. Make them long and grounded if the music suggests that. Make them short and light - if the music jumps with speed. Use the turning one - if the music swirls.

And within all that - hear the beat. 
Before even going into the figures and specifics of steps the major difference is interpretation of the music.

In Tango we arriving on the beat. In Milonga we are leaving from the beat. In Vals the beat is right in the middle, falls in between steps and so - we arrive after it.

Remember your first, first Tango lesson. When you were chasing the beat and the teacher kept shouting - beat, beat, beat pushing you forward.
The secret of Tango is to arrive on the beat. Meaning: when we hear the ‘one’ we shall already be there. With all our weight, or most of it, placed on the foot that takes the step. And to do that we have to start the movement before the beat, so it’s completed on it. If you use the commuter schedule example it’s quite easy to understand. If you want to be somewhere at 1pm you have to leave at least quarter to 1pm, to arrive on time. That’s Tango. 

In Milonga you are more relaxed. You hear the ‘one’ and you starting your movement at this moment. So instead of arriving on 1, you are starting on 1. Instead of dancing ‘on the beat’, you are dancing ‘off the beat’.
MIlonga is probably the closest to the the natural movement. However, because we are usually learning the Tango first and spend undefined number of hours trying to learn how to arrive on the beat, once we eventually turn to the Milonga our body refuses to go back to ‘normal’, as we just forced it to go ‘abnormal’ through hours and hours of exercises. And so you see dancer making a lot of steps, short, and jumpy but no matter what the dance still looks heavy. Only because of ‘on the beat’ Tango interpretation. 

And vice versa. If in Tango you see couples that always look like they behind the music - here we go - that’s the Milonga interpretation of the beat.

Now in Vals. Vals is a funny little animal. It counts to three. But the three is not equal. Just listen to it. 'One' is long and overstretched, and 2 and 3 in comparison are squeezed together. If you think or simply listen to the way we verbalize the count. It sounds somewhat like: oooooooone twothree, oooooooone twothree, oooooooone twothree.

Here we are stretching the 'one' and in fact arrive after the beat. Very often we ignoring the ‘twothree’ and just use ‘one’ to move. IF… If we ARE using it then the ‘one’ is much longer then ‘two and there. 
Now - catch the paradox: if you ARE ignoring 2&3 and only using 1, you can quite easily dance your regular tango figures to Vals music. Is it ok to that that?

My theory is this: the rules are here to break, but…
The whole pleasure of breaking the rules can only be achieved IF YOU KNOW THE RULES. If you don’t know the rules, you are not breaking them. You simply show your lack of sophistication and your ignorance (Or is it arrogance?). 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


You've never foreseen that, but the tango is a dance that require higher degree in mathematics plus driver license for a manual car.
For real!

Remember… the beginning of your tango existence life was simple. She was standing in front of him. He was standing in front of her. Mirror image of each other. He walked with his left foot forward. She walked with her right foot back. Easy.

Now think what this kind of set up allows us to do.
We can walk forward.
We can walk back. 
We can walk in small circle.
We can walk in large circle.
We can walk outside partner left and right.
We can use 8 count basic in parallel.
We can also come up with the whole array of mirrored steps, Meaning: both partners are doing the same things just on opposite legs.
We can also dive into more complicated rotary steps by use of the oppositions.

But hey - don’t limit yourself. You can do more. In much simpler way. All you have to do is to add side step to the recipe plus body isolation to isolate your lead to you partner’s body, from what you require your own body to do and we can come up with some very cute steps including changes of directions. That alone can carry you through many many milongas.

You can also simply let your body do nothing and just lead your partner around. Or forced her to do nothing and dance around her.
That solves the problem of not knowing about cross system and its never ending possibilities. 
Now you get annoyed. Hmm? Cross system, parallel system. Parallel system. Cross system. 
What the hell?
Here is the explanation:

Sistema paralelo / Parallel walk

The leader steps with his left leg forward, the follower steps with her right leg back; the leader steps with his right leg forward and the follower with her left leg back
Sistema cruzado / Cross walk

The leader steps with his right leg forward, the follower steps with her right leg back; the leader steps with his left leg forward and the follower with her left leg back
Contrapaso / Weight change

Weight change used to switch between parallel and cross system of walking.

The cross system and parallel system walk nomenclature originated with the Naveira/Salas "Investigation Group." Early on, they used 'even/uneven' to describe the arrangement of legs in the walk or turn. By the mid-1990s, they began using 'parallel/crossed' and later 'normal/crossed'. The process of changing from the parallel system to cross system (or vice versa) by having the leader change weight without the follower changing weight (or vice versa) is named contrapaso, or "contra-step". This change can be made off or on the normal beat.

When demonstrated in walking, the idea is quite simple and easy to understand.
In normal walk left foot of leader follows right foot of follower and right foot of leader follows left foot of follower. This results in two partners walking on two tracks only. if we go outside partner, we will have to use 4 tracks to avoid stepping on each other. In cross walk both partners are using ‘same’ legs. Right foot of leader follows right foot of follower and left foot of leader follows left foot of follower. This results in 3 tracks walking. One common middle track for right foot and to left feet on outside tracks. Or: left feet on one common tracks and tow right feet ‘sticking out’ on two outside tracks.

So if this is so simple why does ‘do you know cross system?’ question pops up every time you have difficulties with your ochos, giros and changes of directions? What does the simple 3-tracks walking has to do with it?

Take this 3 track walking and put it back on 2 tracks. You cannot use 3 tracks and you have to stay in front of each other. Stop reading here and go experiment to remind yourself.

Are you back? What did you found out?

We get:
back ochos for follower with straight forward walking for leader.
forward ochos for follower with straight back walking for leader.
forward cross walk (forward ochos) for leader with straight back walking for follower.
back cross walk (back ochos) for leader with straight forward walking for follower.

Now add lateral direction step to this concept (side step).

Now add movement isolation. Meaning - create all possible combinations by combining forward, side and back step of follower with forward, side, back step of leader, eg: 

·      L - forward and F - forward
·      L - back and F - back
·      L - forward and F - back
·     L - back and F – forward·      L - side and F – forward
·      L - side and F - back 
·      L - side and F - side 

·      L - forward and F - side
·      L - back and F – side
·      L – side and F – side
Now add additional pivoting, over pivoting, weigh changes, double time plus other musical options and the world goes crazy with the amount of options.

How about switching fronts and using Doble frente’/Tango al reves position. Just to open the discussion – in this position what is cross and what is parallel…

Curious about discovering new options and joining us on the trip towards tango horizons? Check out our schedule at: